A state representative proposed legislation Tuesday–backed by several local lawmakers–that was inspired by a controversial law passed last week in Arizona to combat illegal immigration.
If passed, the bill by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, would charge local law enforcement with checking immigration status, investigating businesses suspected of knowingly employing illegal immigrants and requiring businesses to verify a potential employee’s legal status.
The proposal came a day after state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, introduced a bill in direct opposition to Arizona’s law.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, supports Metcalfe’s effort and said he will likely join as bill co-sponsor.
The federal government has failed to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, Perry said, which is now forcing states to act because illegal immigration fosters crime, lowers wages and puts an added burden on taxpayers.
José Colon, president of the board for the Centro Hispano José Hernández, said much of York’s Hispanic community agrees too many illegal immigrants abuse the system. He said he supports people stopped for violating the law having to prove who they are, saying it only makes sense in an age of terror.
Colon was also bothered by the rhetoric Metcalfe used introducing his proposal, when he spoke of murders and rapists. The vast majority of people here illegally came to work, Colon said, and it makes it harder to have the serious, necessary discussion of the issue with such inflamed rhetoric. And, he added, such talk could create friction between the Hispanic community and others.
About the bill
If passed, House Bill 2479, would:
# Require an employer to verify a prospective employee’s immigration status. Lying about immigration status would be a second-degree misdemeanor.
# Require a law enforcement officer to verify a person’s immigration status if the officer reasonably suspects that a person legally stopped, detained or arrested is in the country illegally. An officer could not inquire about people’s immigration status if they were not first stopped for another offense.
# Require county district attorneys to investigate companies suspected of employing illegal immigrants. Companies caught knowingly doing so could lose access to state grants and their licenses to operate.
# Create a third-degree felony for intentionally smuggling illegal aliens into Pennsylvania. Police would be able to impound smugglers’ vehicles.